The reason for my trip to South Korea
안녕 친구 (Hello friends)
Actually, I’ve never thought about traveling to South Korea in my life. Nobody in Switzerland really talks about this country. Probably their neighbors, the North Koreans, are to blame. I would like to clarify at the beginning of my blogpost: These two countries have nothing in common except the language. But you should have already known that.
I had a specific reason for my trip to this special place. Love it was. A nice reason, right? 😛 My boyfriend is currently doing an exchange semester there. He is studying system engineering. By the end of December, luckily, he’s finally coming back.
My flight to South Korea was exhausting because I had to transfer in Munich and spend three hours at the airport. All in one, I had a safe flight with the Lufthansa airline. The food in the plane was terrible as usual, but so what. Usually I watch movies during my flight. This time I listened to an audiobook for five hours. The name of the audiobook was Ice Dogs by T.L. Johnson. It was about a girl who got lost in the forest with her huskies. A really exciting story with lots of adventures. After 15 hours travel time, my plane finally landed at my final destination. When I arrived at the Seoul Incheon Airport (INC), my boyfriend picked me up. It was an incredible feeling to see him again after such a long time. With the metro we drove to the hotel, which I had already booked in Switzerland. It took us about an hour. Our hotel was located directly at the famous Namdaemun Market. The name of my booked hotel was Cozy Hotel. Well, it wasn’t that cozy. But it was completely ok for us. The room was clean and had everything what we needed. The location of the hotel was great and the subway station „Hoehyeon“ was right next to the hotel. That was the main reason why I had chosen exactly this hotel. The metro in Seoul is verly clean and the whole system works great. It is a very cheap way to get around. I never used a taxi during my time in Seoul. By the way, Seoul is one of the busiest subway system in the world, with around 2.5 billion passengers a year.
Friendly people, education and a good drink culture
Let’s talk about the people and their culture. I experienced the people in South Korea as cultivated, fashionable and friendly. Many people always think the asians are strange and don’t want to have anything to do with the foreigners. But I didn’t experience them that way. On the contrary, the people are open-minded, have a fascinating culture and decency. High respect to older people is very important. Noone talks in the metro and as a woman you don’t have to be afraid of annoying claims. Education and multual appreciation are the two most important things in South Korea. Oh, and before I forget to mention it. The Koreans love to drink, especially beer. There are many retaurants that just offer chicken and beer. The name of the famous Korean beers are Crown and OB. But there are also beer cellars in which the well-known European brands are offered. Besides beer, they love Jungjong (a kind of rice wine) and Soju (resembles vodka and is made from potatoes or grain). Mostly they go for a drink right after work with their employees. At the same time the family is often missed out. People work here a lot and very hard. The employees see each other as close friends and they enjoy spending time together after work.
Koreans do not speak English? Such a nonsense! Anyone traveling to this country as a foreigner doesn’t have to worry. The people don’t speak English as well as the Europeans but honestly you can easily find someone who speaks a decent English. At the metro stations you can always find someone who can give you information in English. So, don’t worry! It’s easy to find your way around the city.
Old town, Bunkchon Hanok Village
A visit to this neighborhood is a must for Seoul travelers. Bukchon Hanok Village is a Korean traditional village in Seoul with a long history. This village has lots of alleys, hanoks (traditional Korean houses) and shows a 600 year old urban environment. Beautiful streets, numerous shops and food stalls chracterize this village. Every house looks a bit different but the Asian style can be seen in every single one. The shops here sell perfums, homemade dresses or candles. All shops in this village are warmly decorated with cute details. I liked the atmosphere that prevails there. Of course there were many tourists, but they did not bother me. Seoul is not New York. If you understand what I mean. Everyone visits New York once in their life, Seoul is definitely not on everyone’s „must see list“. Luckily not. Anyway, there are almost only Asian tourists. Europeans are rarely seen. As a European you stand out of the crowd, especially if you have blond hair and blue eyes like me.
Museums are boring? As if!
My boyfriend was in school during the week, so I had to occupy myself throughout the day. Museums were a meaningful idea. I visited the National Museum of Korea which is the largest museum in Korea. The Museum houses precious Korean cultural assets that tell the story of Korean’s fascinating history, from ancient times to the moder era. I also visited two art museums, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and also a small private art museum which was next to the Modern Art Museum. I didn’t have to pay anything at the National Museums because I had my students card with me. By the way, it has already expired. Fortunately, nobody noticed that because of the German date format.
In addition to the museum visits, I drove a lot with the metro and visited individual parts of the city. A distric I can recommend is Sinchon. Three major universities are located in the Sinchon district namely Yonsei University, Ewha Women’s University and Sogang University. And so the whole neighborhood is student oriented and inhabited by students. Cafes, restaurants and takeaways line up. A colorful district of pubs with numerous neon lights characterizes the nightlife and the traffic never comes to rest in this part of the city.
Shopping paradise Myeong-dong
My hotel was very close to the Myeong-dong station. I only had 10 minutes to walk, it was just one station with the metro to the shopping paradise. Myeong-dong is mostly a commercial area, being one of Seoul’s main shopping and tourism districts. Many korean shops, but also big fashion chains like zara and H&M can be found in Myeong-dong. There are also many luxury warehouses with all sorts of brands such as Chanel, Prada and Co. Myeong-dong was listed as the ninth most expensive shopping street in the world. You can find many skin care shops, especially Korean shops, at the main street. By the way, if you ever go to South Korea, you have to test the Korean facial care products. It says that the Koreans own and sell the best products. That is probably the reason for her pure skin. I was talked into believing this and bought too many products. I have often visited this place during my time in South Korea. I liked how busy everything was there. Even late at night I still had the feeling it was day because of the bright billboards which were shining everywhere and also at night I could smell the food which was sold on the streets in Myeong-dong. Here was really something going on! We have been also to the cinema once. Koreans produce a lot of their own stuff and these films are only available in their own language. We decided against a Korean own production. Although it would have been amusing. We watched the movie Happy Deathday. The film was in English with Korean subtitles. American films always run in English in Korea.
And let’s go to…
Japan! My journey continued. My next stop was the metropolitan city Tokyo. From Seoul I flew directly to Tokyo. In Tokyo I met my best buddy. What we experienced and what places we visted, I will tell you in my next blogpost. So stay tuned!
Other places I’ve visited you can find here.